Benefits of Fleece Fabric

Although it started as a fabric for outdoor clothing in severe weather conditions, fleece is now made into everything from hats and mittens to jackets and blankets. Because of the way it's constructed, it won’t pill and form little balls on the fabric the way other synthetics will. Since it won’t fray or unravel, fleece fabrics are the perfect choice for crafting with the whole family.

Polar fleece fabric has two-sided pile, meaning the fabric is the same on both sides. It is very strong, holds warmth and dries quickly, which is why it was originally used by outdoor enthusiasts instead of wool. The structure of the pile surface of the fleece makes air pockets to keep the wearer warmer than wool and other fabrics. Its light weight and extra warmth made it a good choice for winter camping and backpacking. It has also been used as ear warmers for newborn calves and even as underwear for astronauts.Making Fleece FabricFleece fabric is actually a polyester that is made by reacting two different petroleum derivatives at very high temperatures to form a polymer. This polymer cools to thick syrup that is then forced through tiny holes in a metal disc called a spinneret. As this polymer touches the air, it cools and hardens into long strings. Once the strings are woven into yarns, it is knitted into cloth. This cloth is then run through a machine called a napper, where bristles raise the surface of the fabric.

A shearing machine then cuts the fibers and gives it the soft texture that we recognize as fleece. Sometimes chemicals such as Teflon are added for additional waterproofing.

Fleece was first manufactured in Massachusetts at Malden Mills under the trade name PolarTec, or Polar Fleece. Malden Mills still manufactures most of the polyester fleece that is on the market today. An outdoor company called Patagonia made the first fleece jackets that soon became popular with those who climbed mountains and those who just climbed into their cars.

The chemical name of polymer in fleece fabric is polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. If this compound isn’t made into fleece fibers, it can be made into plastic bottles that are used for water or soda. In turn, many fleece fabrics are made of recycled PET bottles. Clear bottles can be used to make any color fleece, but fabric made from green PET bottles must be dyed a dark color. It is estimated that for every meter of fleece fabric that is manufactured, eight bottles are kept out of the landfills. Patagonia says that every fleece jacket they make uses the equivalent of 25 plastic bottles.

Buying Fleece FabricIn addition to buying the finished goods, it is easy to buy fleece fabric by the yard or bolt. Because it is so versatile, it can be imprinted with the logo of a favorite sports team, animal print, popular cartoon or television character. Baby fleece fabric is a popular choice for baby shower gifts while bear fleece fabrics are a perfect hostess gift for a weekend at the cabin.

Sports-themed fleece fabrics are a great choice for a stadium blanket for your college-bound student. Because it is stretchy and easy to work with, fleece has inspired a number of easy craft ideas including: Stitchless Fleece BlanketYou will need two pieces of fleece fabric, 40-54 inches wide. Use 1 yard for a baby blanket and two yards for an adult-size blanket. If you would like the blanket to be reversible, choose two complimentary patterns for your fleece squares. Lay the pieces out, one on top of another. Cut 4-inch long and 1-inch wide fringes all around the edges of the squares. Tie the first pair of fringe pieces together, keeping the squares on top of each other. Skip the next pair, and tie every other one around the edge. Flip the blanket over and tie the remaining fringes together. Now you have a one-of-a-kind blanket that will be cherished and used for years to come.Funky Fleece HatYou will need to sew just a little for this project. Measure the head of the person who will be wearing the hat. Add two inches to that measurement. Cut a piece of fleece that is as long as your measurement and 16 inches wide. Sew a half-inch seam up the 16-inch side of your fabric.

Turn the fabric inside out, and roll up the bottom twice so that it forms a 2- inch cuff on the bottom. You can put a few stitches in the cuff so that it doesn’t unroll, or sew a colorful button to the side. Gather the top of your fabric and either tie it closed with a piece of string 3 inches from the edge, or sew it closed. Match the fleece pattern to each recipient – fun flowers for a little girl or bold stripes for the rebellious teenager.

Fleece ScarfThis no-sew project is perfect for getting even the youngest crafter involved. Get some fleece in a fun pattern. You will need about two yards per scarf, but you will be able to get several scarves out of one piece of fabric. Carefully cut the fleece fabric every 6 to 8 inches, cutting down the full 2 yards to make strips. Because the fleece won’t unravel, you don’t need to sew the edges. Cut narrow, 4-inch long pieces of fringe at each end of the scarf and tie each piece of fringe in a knot to separate it from the rest. Give it to someone who needs to stay warm in the wintertime.

Fleece PillowFind a pillow size you would like to make – you can either use a pillow form, or stuff it with foam or batting. Cut two identical squares from the fleece, making sure to center any pattern you want on your pillow.

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Sew a seam around three sides of your pillow, and turn inside out. Insert the pillow form or batting and hand stitch with tiny stitches down the open side. If you’d like to be able to launder your pillow cover, sew Velcro to each open side so that the form can be removed.

Fleece fabric is so easy to work with that almost any project you craft will make you look like a pro. Make fleece animals, socks, scarves or anything else you can dream up that can be made from this versatile fabric. Because most fleece is made of at least partially recycled materials, you can feel good about buying fleece products and using them in your craft projects.

As technology advances, fleece manufacturers are expanding their recycling efforts. New ways of shipping plastic bottles and cutting down on the resources used to make fleece will make it an even “greener” product in the future. For now, grab that waterproof fleece jacket on a cold day and marvel at the warmth and ingenuity of this truly remarkable product.

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